ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
I remember when I was in school, segregation was still in the back of many people’s minds, even if Black students were “allowed” into the
school. But just because they were allowed in did not mean that everyone was happy or accepting of that fact.
As I remember, it was mostly my teachers — and mostly my high school principal — who wanted to remind us (the White students) that Black students were not on the same level with us (White students) and I had a hard time understanding why. If they were in our classes, taking the same subjects, needing to fulfill the same requirements, why in the world were they not “on the same level” with us (the White students)?
What I remember most about my principal’s feelings toward Black students (in those days we didn’t think of calling the teachers or
principal racist; I think we just used the old-fashioned term “prejudiced”) was this one day when Gene, a fellow student who loved to cook and bake, made me a pumpkin pie (my favorite) and brought it to school for me. We never saw each other outside of school, so that was the only way he could give it to me. We got to be good friends because we were in drama class together and therefore in plays and studying lines together and so forth.
Well, when he gave me the pie, I just put it in my locker and then we each went off to our first class of the day. I wasn’t in my seat more
than five minutes when I got called down to the principal’s office.
Without even a “good morning” or “hello,” the principal started right in by saying to me, “You know why you’re here, don’t you?
I answered him honestly, saying “No, Mr. Logan, I don’t.” “It has been reported to me that there was an incident in the hallway, near your locker, with Gene, that colored boy.” I must have looked shocked because all he did was give me a pie. “We cannot have that sort of thing going on in this school, so I must ask you to never do that again.”
I guess that’s when I became a “problem child” to the principal, because I told him that I could not tell Gene what to do or not do (even though I planned to tell him about this scolding I got for accepting his pie, while not telling him to never do that again), and besides, being on the receiving end did not make me any kind of a “doer,” as Mr. Logan tried to characterise me. Gene understood.
So as I was watching the news today and heard what Columbia University was doing — hosting six separate graduation ceremonies based on income level, race, ethnicities, and a few other factors, I wondered why the students liked that idea.For Pete’s sake, didn’t we (certain people in this country) work hard to remove segregation and bring about equality in the schools, where all students were on the same level as far as being students went, but each student still had to be graded on their own ability? Didn’t we want some of that inclusivity that Pres. Biden keeps talking about? (Of course, as a student back in the ‘50s, I couldn’t imagine why a student should be considered anything less than a student, and if they were a student, why treat them any differently?) And inclusivity certainly isn’t just a thing that popped
up in recent times. It seems that most students (people) want to feel included in “the group” of whatever it is. So segregation was the
opposite of that. If I didn’t feel good about it back in the ‘50s, and I know Gene didn’t either, why would today’s students feel good about
breaking up into such groups as Native (American), Asian, Latinx, Black, FLI Grads (first generation and/or low income community, and
the ”Lavender” graduation for the “LGBTIAQ+ community” instead of wanting to be one big happy family class of graduates? The only
logical reason I can think of is, thanks to COVID and needing to have the ceremonies on ZOOM or the like, the squares of faces would be so very small to accommodate all those students, so I can accept that.
But why not divide the main graduating class alphabetically, like A thru D, E thru H, I thru L, etc. to create larger face squares?
On second thought, since students have really been experiencing a lot this year so far and last year, maybe it was just one little way that
it could make them feel like “family” with those in the group that shared some kind of “alikeness”!
In a statement to Forbes magazine, a spokesperson for Columbia University said, “The smaller celebratory events held for particular
groups are in addition to, not instead of, the university- and class-wide graduation ceremonies. The gatherings are voluntary, open
to every student who wants to participate, and have become a highly anticipated and meaningful part of the Columbia graduation
experience.” Sounds good, but I just hope it won’t lead to going backward. I think we had enough of that.
Apparently such diverse graduation ceremonies have been going on for years all across the country, at such universities as Harvard, Georgetown, Syracuse, and Johns Hopkins University. I didn’t know. And apparently something called “critical race theory” is pushed on children at school and the Biden administration seems to go with it under the label of “racial equity.” (Another seemingly friendly word.)
But where is it leading?
Segregation of the ‘50s led to racial inclusivity many years later, but never changed the hardened hearts of die-hard racial discriminators, just as there are still those die-hards that go around saying “The South shall rise again!”
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.